ISLAMABAD: Commenting for the first time on lawyers attack on Lahore’s Punjab Institute of Cardiology (PIC), Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Asif Saeed Khosa on Saturday said the highly condemnable incident is “an opportunity for introspection and self-accountability”.
Speaking at a conference regarding expeditious justice at Federal Judicial Academy, the chief justice remarked, “Whatever happened in Lahore should not have happened”.
He said he did not want to comment on the matter as the case was being heard at the Lahore High Court (LHC). However, he added, both legal and medical professions are noble and hoped that such incidents would not be repeated in the future.
“Our hearts and our minds reach out to the victims and their families,” said CJP Khosa.
Urging both lawyers and doctors to make efforts to keep the nobility of their professions intact, he said, “We hope and pray that all concerned would uphold the values attached to the legal and medical professions.”
The chief justice expected that better sense will prevail not just in this particular incident and its aftermath but in the future as well. He then added that he would refrain from saying anymore on the subject as the matter is subjudice before the LHC.
Speaking on the seminar’s topic, the CJP said he was glad that the criminal justice in the country had improved during his tenure. Improvement in the justice sector had come in the judicial work without changing the system and the law, he added. “We identified causes of delay in providing the justice … we started by stop giving adjournments and bound state and police to present witnesses,” he stated.
The chief justice expressed full satisfaction over the working of model courts in the country. He also revealed that a 25-year-old backlog in criminal appeals had ended during his tenure. “Currently, there is no criminal appeal pending in the apex court,” he added.
Chief Justice Khosa, who is retiring on December 20, said the biggest challenge he faced during his tenure was delay in murder trial as it makes people think that they are hopeless. In past, 15 to 20 commissions had been formed on changing the law, the procedure and the court structure, but, all the recommendations were buried in books, he said.
“However, we brought change through existing system, law and procedure,” the outgoing chief justice remarked.
The chief justice said he identified seven to eight factors for the delay in justice system — especially with respect to criminal trials. “We give priority to criminal trials because someone is languishing in jail, having lost his freedom, and someone else who has suffered a loss is awaiting justice,” he remarked.
The chief justice also said that when the state is complainant, it is duty of police to present witnesses and evidence before the court. “But for a while now, the victim party has been held responsible for presenting witnesses,” he added.
The CJP also elaborated on how victim families faced hardships in presenting witnesses. “But this has changed and now police and state is asked to take ownership of presenting witnesses,” he added.
He also said that other factors like delays in challans, delays in production of prisons due to lack of funds and delays in writing out a judgment, were also addressed during his tenure as the country’s top judge.